Adios August

3 Sep

August was a busy month and there were some surprises along the way. Here (slightly later than planned) is what I did last month:

The online drama classes I toook during lockdown finally went live with a socially-distanced audience. I was completely unprepared but I managed to get through it relatively unscathed. I was quite taken aback by some of the comments I received for my monolgue performance and a scene that I wrote which was staged read. It is so incredible to hear something your wrote being brought to life by actors.

I got accepted to not one but two Masters programmes. I didn’t think I’d be accepted to either of them but I found out I had got places on the same day. Incredible stuff. After a lot of consideration I have decided to do both of them. I know it is going to be a lot of hard work but I would be impossible to choose one or the other. I also have a contingency plan if worse comes to worse. Both are writing related and I’m so excited to start. I have already bought lots of new stationery!

I found out one of my short stories will be published later this year around November. It’s given me confidence that what I write is publishable and I have been writing more as a result. My problem has always been that I don’t finish writing that I start so I will be finishing projects I’ve started in September before my courses start and I forget about them completely.

I completed the bonus round of my online book challenge group which means I read 20 books in two months. I read so much but my to read pile just keeps getting higher and higher.

Speaking of challenges I finished another challenge from my 40 Before 40 list. Here is the link if you missed it.

I also finished my 12 week transformation programme at the gym. I did two weeks, had a two-month break because of lockdown and then completed the last ten weeks this week. It’s made such a difference, even though the early mornings are a killer. I’m hoping to get back to more running as well as continue with some of the classes that I’ve enjoyed. This week I’m having a break though because I feel like I deserve it.

September will be busy. It’s my birthday and I will be going on holiday and starting my Masters courses! It’s going to be another busy month but I’m ready for it!

Hope you have a great September!

Homemade

30 Aug

The weather has taken a turn for the worse. I’m sort of glad because it was far too hot but now it’s just turned into torrential rain resulting with me being completely reluctant to leave the house for anything that isn’t a life-or-death situation.

As a result I have spent the weekend reading (yay!), watching films (yay!) and completing one more of my 40 Before 40 Challenges (yay!). This weekend I’ve made jam!

I’ve always wanted to have a go at making jam but I was scared to. Something that most people normally buy in a supermarket must be very difficult to make, right? WRONG! I found it suprisingly easy.

I didn’t pick my own fruit because a) a bit late in the fruit picking season to go and pick them myself, b) it’s been raining – a lot, and c) if I did go and pick them myself I would have spent most of time eating them rather than just picking them and putting them in the basket. As there was an offer on in the supermarket and I love them, I made blueberry jam.

My first attempt at blueberry jam

As I say it was relatively easy and you don’t need many ingredients. I used blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and plant-based pectin which makes my jam vegan! You basically put everything in a pot and boil it! I was always so impressed by the people on GBBO making their own jam and now that magic is gone.

We had it for breakfast and it’s very tasty and not too sweet!

I also decided to make lemon curd – another favourite on GBBO that I’ve always been amazed by. It is a bit tricker than making jam because the eggs can split but it turned out great. My wrist wasn’t too happy at the constant stirring though! I actually think this tastes better than what you can buy in the shops but as you can’t buy this in the shops here I guess that’s not so impressive!

Homemade Lemon Curd

I now have enough jam and lemon curd to last for a few months and I won’t hesitate to make them again on a rainy afternoon!

Challenge Update

21 Aug

It’s shortly coming up to 3 years since I started my 40 Before 40 challenge so it’s time for a round-up and also to make some changes.

It was never my intention to make any changes to the list but (surprise, surprise) because of COVID-19 I’ve decided to take the travel related items off the list and replace them with other challenges. My aim is still to complete the travel related items but not within the timeframe.

So from now on the following five challenges have changed to:

2. Complete a Masters programme

13. Self publish an ebook of flash fiction

18. Take part in a Cheese Masterclass with a Cheese Sommelier

27. Read an average of a book a week

36. Learn how to make jam

I realise there is a huge difference between making jam and travelling business class on a long haul flight but needs must! I’d rather have something ‘easier’ to complete than not get all the challenges completed. And the challenge I have replaced will still say on my bucket list so it’s not like they will disappear forever!

With two years to go, I have completed 22 of the challenges, with 9 of these being completed in the last year. I also have quite a few challenges in progress like going alcohol-free for a year (almost 200 days done!), I’m still working my way through the film list and I will be starting a Masters in September all being well, so it’s convenient that that is now on the list.

So I am hopefully still on track to complete all the challenges in 2 years time!

Time to float

18 Aug

It’s been perfect weather to float down the river in a blow-up dingy! And by that I mean it’s been so hot, the only way you can cool down is by getting down to a body of water and immersing yourself in water.

I did this last week with a friend. I don’t think I even went once last year so it was long overdue.

The hardest part is always blowing the boat up. Luckily we have two of us to share this task. We were ready to go in no time.

Pumped up and ready to go!

The best part about floating during the week is that the river is far less crowded. Go on a weekend and there are so many boats and inflatables that it feels a bit like the Wacky Races on water. It was so quiet and relaxing.

I also realised that part of the river we floated down is the same part of the river where I used to go running during my lunchtime – this activity is on hold thanks to COVID as I’m now running around where I live rather than the office.

View of the city from the river

Last time I did this activity, it felt like it lasted forever but it seemed over far too quickly this time. I wanted to go back to the start and do it all again. Of course, I realised when I got home that I had got sunburnt despite putting plenty of sun protection on. Luckily it wasn’t too bad but I definitely have a mark where my t-shirt has been.

I am hoping to get another chance for a float this season but time isn’t on my side with a few trips planned for my days off and tennis lessons about to start up again so I am keeping my fingers crossed that the weather stay good until September!

Bye Bye, July

2 Aug

Slightly later than planned, for no other reason than laziness, here is what I have been up to in July:

I completed the first round of my online reading challenge that I take part on a regular basis. I managed to read 11 books in July, mainly because TV has been so shockingly awful. I’m now only one book away from reaching the target I set for myself in 2020 which was 75. I have a feeling I might surpass my total from 2019 but I’m going to challenge myself to read some longer books I have been putting off for a while.

The ‘offline’ books I read in July

I’m now 100% in on the weightlifting/gym routine and I am enjoying it. Four session a week plus running and tennis lessons has been gruling but I am getting used to it and managing to stick with it. The added benefit it that I actually sleep. I’ve been a notoriously bad sleeper, espeically over the past few years but now (as a result of the training and the early mornings) I drag myself to bed before 10 almost falling asleep before my head hits the pillow.

The package of tennis lessons I paid for it almost at an end and, considering I had never really played before, I’m very happy with the progress and I might keep playing on in the winter.

I took part in my first ever improv show. I still can’t make up my mind if I liked it or not. The audience seemed to be entertained which is the main thing. More classes will start in the new year and I’m tempted to carry on with it.

I’ve also had online script writing lesson which have been great fun and I’ve learnt a lot. It’s given me quite a bit to think about in terms of whether I want to focus more on script writing or novels/short stories. I guess I can always do both!

I’m not sure what August will bring but there is another drama performance in the pipeline and more reading of course. Perhaps later in the year there will be a holiday or a chance to go home to see family and friends. Fingers crossed!

Gardening Success

20 Jul

I’m not the world’s best gardener but I have been trying to spend more time in the garden, especially as the chances of a two-week holiday this summer seemed unlikely. I took it as the perfect opportunity to invest time and energy into the garden while I’m here to enjoy it.

I’ve been surprised by my successes so far. The cherry tomatoes are coming along (a few even look like they are turning red); the snack peppers have already been ‘harvested’ once; my sweet peas are growing like the clappers, but alas! no sign of any flowers yet; and a moldy tomato I decided to plant to “see if it would grow or not” seems to grow an inch every time I look at it.

I need to replant the ‘moldy tomato plant’ because it needs more space to grow into at the rate its growing. I’ve been meaning to do that for the past five days now but I will do it tomorrow.

Here are some photos:

Lots of cherry tomatoes and the first ones turning red!
This is what happens when you plant a moldy tomato…
First ‘harvest’ of snack peppers

I would like to grow other vegetables and plant but at the moment I don’t have deep enough soil. I’m already thinking about investing in some more permanent (and deeper) plots of soil for next year!

Back to Drama

13 Jul

During the Lockdown, I busied myself with online drama course offered by an English-speaking theatre group based in Zurich. It was so much fun. I didn’t do much acting and drama when I was at school (long story that I’ll save for another time) so I’m making up for lost time and trying to learn as much about drama and the theatre as I can. I like having a hobby that is completely different to my day job but also compliments my ambitions of being a full-time writer.

Now people can meet in person again, drama classes are back and in person (while observing the 2m distancing rule as much as possible). So I signed up for an Improvisation class. It sounds like the stuff of nightmares to most people, being without a script and taking suggestion from the audience to be used in the scene, but I’d much prefer to do that than learn lines and lines from a script that I’m bound to forget anyway.

With any luck what we learn in the class will be showcased in a performance near the end of the month. The luck part is hoping that a second wave hasn’t hit and it’s still possible to perform live.

Then later in August the theatre company is hoping to bring some of the pieces that we studied and created in lockdown to the real stage, which is such a great idea. I’ve put myself forward to perform a couple of pieces so I just have to see if they are chosen to be performed on the night.

On top of that I’ve also started an online screen writing course. It’s online because playwright who is workshopping it is based in the UK so for once an online course is happening online for logistical reasons and not because of a global pandemic. I’ve never written anything before for the stage or TV apart from a short play I wrote as part of the online course that ran in April. It’s very fun to learn something new and I’m hoping it will also help me develop interesting characters to use in a future book or short story.

I am grateful, in a weird way, for the pandemic because I wouldn’t have been able to take these classes and find something I have a passion for. Obviously I hope life will return to normal as soon as possible but I would like to stick to the acting and theatre now I’ve found it.

Challenge #35 – completed

6 Jul

My aim to read 40 non-fiction books before I am 40 is over. I’ve never been a big lover of non-fiction so I decided to attempt to clear my shelves of some of the books I’ve been meaning to read but haven’t. I must say I enjoyed this challenge more than I thought I would. Here are the books I read to complete the challenge:

The Healing Self: Supercharge your immune system and stay well for life by Deepak Chopra and Rudolph E. Tanzi – I get the irony of me finishing reading this book, just as lockdown started. There were interesting anecodes in the book but I would say that there was anything majorly life changing about the book. It advocated practising meditation, eating less meat and not drinking alcohol which are fairly standard practices for people who want to improve the quality and longevity of their lives.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – this book is about the author’s struggle with coming to terms with her husband’s death while dealing with her daughter’s serious illness. I found it fairly indulgent and the most interesting part for me was how she dealt with her grief rather than her feelings of obligation to her daughter. A lot of the thoughts about grief and loss were familiar to me. I wished the whole book was devoted to exploring this rather than just dipping into the subject.

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff – I credit this book with being the main reason I managed to finish the first draft of my novel. It’s a great read about why people fail to tackle goals they set themselves and how to recify this. There are lots of practical examples and tips to help you achieve any goal, no matter how big or small. To read a full review, check out my writer’s website here.

How to Get What You Want in the Workplace by John Gray – this is the third book of John Gray’s I’ve read for this challenge. I like the advice he gives and how it makes you rethink about how communications between men and women differ. In some respects, this books gives very similar advice and observances to the other books I read but I still found it useful and I’m trying to incorporate the advice into situations at work, though that is difficult at the moment when I’m working from home!

Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox – This was a very interesting and funny book. The author looked at all aspects of English life from the pub, to queuing and attitudes towards brands of cars. Parts of it were funny and parts really made me think differently about social situations and the class system in England. I would love to read more books like this.

Dare To Connect by Susan Jeffers – I’ve tried to read this book before but failed. I managed to get through it this time and loved it. (I guess before it wasn’t the right time to read it). It’s all about connect with people and how having the right connections with the right people can help you achieve happiness. A great book.

A Rebel’s Guide to Inner Peace by Mahima Lucille Klinge – part autobiographical work, part self-help book, I found this interesting. I actually received this when I went to a conference arranged by the author last year. It was interesting to read more about how she had come to be at the point in her life where she was coaching people to improve their lives and as a reminder about the things I learnt at that conference. I am grateful I went on the conference and read this book as I benefited from it greatly.

How to Work with Just About Anyone by Lucy Gill – after reading this book, I realised that I have it easy as work. All the examples given in the book seemed to involve utterly awful people. If my work colleagues were that bad I would quit my job and be done with it. There was some good advice though which, again, I will hope to use in the future… if I haven’t forgotten it all after working from home for so long.

Finding Ultra by Rich Roll – as running an Ultra marathon is also on my list of things to do before I am 40, I thought this would be a great place to find tips for me to use in my training. The author was an over-weight middle-aged man who realised his lifestyle was slowly killing him so he changed his lifestyle and fell into long distance running. He went on to complete in the world’s most grueling competitions, such as Ironman races. It’s an inspiring story and, although I doubt I will compete in Ironman’s, I have learnt a lot about training for an Ultra. I highly recommend it if you are interested in competing over longer distances.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch – this book had me in floods of tears at the end and I don’t care who knows it. The author wrote the book as a legacy to his young children after he was diagnose with terminal cancer. So many parts of the book struck a chord with me and the book was a reminder that although life is short, you can achieve your dreams, whatever they are.

I have now completed 22 of my 40 challenges. I’m starting to worry about completing the travel-related ones on time but I am pushing on regardless.

Bye June!

30 Jun

Another month has come and gone and we are half way through 2020. It’s strange to think we have spent about half of this year in lockdown and I am still working from home at least for another month. What a crazy year.

June itself has been pretty uneventful. Things have been slowly opening up in Switzerland but I’m more than happy to spend as much time as possible at home for the time being and spend time doing (socially distant) sports.

I have started going back to the gym in the mornings. Two weeks before lockdown I signed up for a 12 week fitness plan. I was just getting into it when I had to stop. I’m now in the third week of restarting the programme and I’m starting to feel the benefits already. This means my ambitious running targets have been dropped for the time being but I did get out of bed this morning at 5.30am to go for a 10km run because I realised yesterday that I hadn’t run a 10km in June. I enjoyed it a lot and the sun hadn’t come up. I hate running in heat!

I’ve finished another one of my 40 Before 40 challenges this month as well. I’ve not written about it because I only finished it yesterday but that will be coming soon and I’ve started another challenge from the list – which will take about 6 months to complete.

I’m going strong on my alcohol-free year. It’s something like 130 days now and I’m finding it ok. I think it’s definitely having a positive effect on my wasitline as well as my pocket.

I took part in an online theatre performance. A playwright had written a series of Zoom calls for us to perform all based on Lockdown life and the performance was recorded. I was so nervous about it but I enjoyed it and I hope the audience did too!

My writing progress has slowed down a bit. You might remember I finished the first draft of a novel in May and my plan is to get busy on some other writing before coming back to it later in the year to start the first of many rounds of edits. The hope that I would be able to use my ‘high’ of finishing the book would end up with me being more productive on other writing projects wasn’t been realised. But I have two submissions for competitions in early July to make so I need to get cracking on those or I’ll miss the deadlines.

In July I will be taking part in my online reading challenge again, aiming to read 10 books which fit 10 different categories. I’m happy this challenge means I will be able to get some more room on my reading shelves.

I am also aiming to post every Monday in July on this blog because I realise I haven’t been so good with updating this recently. This is partly because I’ve not done anything that deviated especially from my lockdown routine so it didn’t seem like there was that much to say.

Life after Lockdown

18 Jun

With restrictions slowly lifting, I was thinking about what life would be like when things return back to normal after Lockdown, or at least as normal as they can be after a global pandemic.

I know some people have struggled with the restrictions and have found life difficult but I’ve try to embrace Lockdown life and make the most of it. If you know me, you’ll know that I love travelling but not being able to has given me time to think about what else I like doing and what projects I could do safely from home that have been on my to-do list for a long time.

I am hoping that working from home will continue long into the future (at the moment we have been told to work from home until the end of July and then spilt working will come into effect all being well) because I feel a lot more relaxed working in my little office space at home and I can do everything as well as I can if I was sitting in an office in Zurich.

I have been thinking about what things that I started during Lockdown I want to keep doing. Here’s a little list:

  1. I am pretty bad at keeping in contact with people. I blame social media for a portion of this. When I can see what people have posted from day to day, I feel like I have been in contact with them but seeing where someone went for dinner or which airport they are flying from on their latest holiday is not the same as picking up the phone or sending someone a personal message to see how they are. I’ve made an effort to speak to family and friends, and reconnected with others, during Lockdown and it feels good to hear back from people or to spend 15 minutes on a video call catching up. I will endeavour to carry this on.
  2. We’ve been having a weekly family quiz. I’ve lost count of how many weeks this has been but I’ve really enjoyed hunting down questions when it was my turn to write them or scratching my head at questions when I wasn’t quiz master. I’m not saying that I want to commit to a weekly quiz in the future but I wouldn’t mind doing it once a month or so. I’ve also been doing a monthly quiz for the netball club because we haven’t been able to train which has been fun too. Basically, quizzing is here to stay.
  3. This is a strange one… during the panemdic I ordered monthly contact lenses online. I’d switched to single use lenses more than 10 years ago. Seeing reports of wildlife and nature thriving while people weren’t travelling made me think I should do more for the environment. So I decided using monthly lenses would cut down on my non-recyclable plastic waste and I will save a ton of money too!
  4. I’ve managed to draft a novel in Lockdown and in general I am enjoying my writing and I’ve made some good habits around my writing. I can see it’s improving slowly so I would love for this creativity to carry on, espeically when I come back to editing my novel (which needs a huge amount of work.)
  5. Running has been a regular part of my day over the past three months. It meant getting out of the house and enjoying fresh air. The highlights were my early morning runs. I’ve forced myself out of bed a handful of times for, what I call, morning miles and every time I was amazed by nature. I managed to see a fox early one morning, another time a red kite swooped down to catch some prey less than 10 meters away from me and I saw two rabbits running away from a fox last week. Incredible stuff which made the long hard slog of a weekend run worth it.
  6. I realised yesterday that I haven’t had to make an excuse to get out of any social activities. I know what you’re thinking – that’s easy because we haven’t been able to socialise! But actually a lot of my hobbies and groups have moved online, like writing group and drama classes. I’ve found it really liberating to not feel that awful sensation of guilt about trying to come up with an excuse about not wanting to do something that I signed up to do when I was feeling in a better mood. I am hoping to have the courage in the future to be more honest and able to only make plans I want to commit to.

Has there been anything about Lockdown that you would like to keep?